Golf Causes and Cures: The Slice, Part II

For part I

If you're part of the estimated 80-85 percent of golfers who slice the ball, your problem probably stems from a common cause. Here are a few more flaws that lead to a golf slice, and the cure for each:

  • Cause: Weak grip– Grip the club in your usual fashion and address the ball. How many knuckles can you see on the back of your left hand? If it's less than two full knuckles, your grip is in a “weak” position. This may cause the clubface to rotate into an open position on the backswing, and without a powerful downswing body turn and/or rotation of the forearms, it will remain open at impact. Hello, golf slice.
  • Cure: Move your grip to a stronger position
  • Cause: Swing is too upright – The closer your left arm comes to being completely vertical at the top of your backswing, the more “upright” it is, and the more likely you are to slice the ball. Upright swingers tend to come over the top and lack the rotation necessary to send the ball toward the target.
  • Cure: Stand farther from the ball – This will force you to swing more around the body on a “flatter” (more horizontal) plane, promoting a swing path from inside the target line. If you typically slice your drives, teeing the ball slightly higher will serve the same purpose.
  • Cause: Failure to release the club– In order to square the clubface at impact, the right forearm and hand must roll over the left, an action called “releasing the club.” Several faults can inhibit your release, including tension in the hands and arms or an upper body that trails too far behind the hips and legs on the downswing.
  • Cure: Split-grip drill

Playing Conditions Causes and Cures for the Slice

Playing Conditions Causes and Cures for the Slice

It's hard to play good golf when you hit a slice. You can make your way around the course with a variety of ball flights, but the slice is one which offers very little forgiveness. If you are a golfer who slices most of your shots, you already know this to be true. There isn't anywhere to hide from a slice – it makes everything you do on the course significantly harder. Trying to use that big curve from left to right (for a right-handed golfer) is extremely difficult from an accuracy perspective, which says nothing about the distance loss you will deal with as well.

The solution here is obvious – if you are going to become a better golfer, the slice has got to go. Of course, getting rid of your slice is easier said than done. If it were easy to eliminate the slice, millions of golfers would already have done so. You should know right from the beginning that getting rid of your slice is going to be quite the challenge. With that said, it is not impossible. Plenty of golfers have managed to correct their slice over the years, and you can add your name to that list with the right instruction and plenty of hard work.

It is best to think about the process of getting rid of your slice in two parts. First, you need to understand your slice. Why is the ball slicing time after time? What mistakes are you making in your swing to lead to that result? Many golfers get too frustrated with the slice to slow down and think about the problem from a rational perspective. You don't want to let your frustration get the best of you here – the slice is simply a mechanical problem, and it has a mechanical solution. If you start to deliver the club to the ball from the proper direction with the right mechanics, the slice will disappear. It's just that simple.

So, the first half of the process is understanding your slice and its root cause. From there, the second half of the process is good old-fashioned hard work. You will need to get out to the driving range and work on the techniques that are going to take this error out of your swing once and for all. Obviously, the fixes that you need to work on at the driving range are going to depend on the problems in your swing which are causing the slice to begin with. It is only through a blend of education and hard work that you will finally be able to kick the slice to the curb. Sure, this process will take a while, but it will be a satisfying feeling when you can finally stand on the tee and not worry about a slice sending your ball into the trees.

All of the content in this article is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Common Causes of the Slice

The Common Causes of the Slice

You already know that the slice is the most common ball flight problem in the modern game. But why is that the case? What is it about the slice that makes it such a consistent issue for amateur golfers? In order to get to the bottom of this 'mystery', it is important to understand what is happening when the ball slices from left to right through the air.

In order for the ball to curve dramatically as it flies, it has to have a high rate of sidespin. For a slice to be the result of a given swing, that swing needs to produce a tremendous amount of sidespin from left to right (for a right-handed golfer). To generate such sidespin, the club needs to be moving across the ball as it swings through the hitting area. If you are able to swing down the line properly, you simply won't be able to generate a slice. You might be able to hit a fade when swinging down the line – if the face is open – but it would be extremely rare to hit a slice.

So, what does all of that mean? Quite simply, it means that if you are hitting a slice, you are swinging across the ball from right to left at the moment of impact. If it helps, you might want to think about this as swinging from outside-to-inside. In other words, the club head is getting closer and closer to you as it heads toward the target. This kind of swipe across the ball is going to lead to lots of side spin, and a slice is the very likely outcome.

When looking for the common causes of the slice, we are really looking for mistakes which would cause you to swing across the ball. If we can find those problems, and fix them, we can eliminate the slice. The list below highlights some of the common causes of an outside-in swing.

  • A poor setup. If you setup in the wrong position, you may be doomed to hit a slice before you even start your swing. For instance, if you accidentally stand over the ball with an open stance, the club may follow along with that open stance and wind up moving across the ball at impact. Or, you could setup with your hands too high, leading to a poor swing plane going back, and a slice in the end. It isn't too much fun to work on your setup position during a practice session, but doing so is a wise way to spend your time. Mastering the setup isn't just going to help you get rid of the slice – it is simply going to help you play better golf across the board.
  • A short backswing. This is one point that causes trouble for countless golfers around the world. When you make a short backswing, you are forced to transition into the downswing too quickly – and the club doesn't have time to drop properly into the slot. That means the club is going to be forced up and away from your body, and you will wind up swinging across the ball at impact in the end. You don't need to force yourself into an uncomfortably long backswing to fix this point, you just have to take your time and let the swing build naturally. It isn't so much about making a bigger turn as it is about taking your time during the transition. Even if you lack the flexibility needed to make a big shoulder rotation, you can still avoid the slice if you are willing to be patient during the transition of the swing. Take a moment at the top to bring everything together nicely and you should be happy with the results.
  • An early release. While the two points above are common mistakes in the amateur game, this last point on our list is likely the most common cause of the slice. By releasing the club early, you are going to force the club head to the outside of the target line. From there, if you hope to make contact with the ball at all, you will need to pull the club back across the ball from outside-in. Fixing this mistake comes down to mastering something known as the delayed release, or lag. Basically, you are going to take your hands down toward the ball as far as possible before letting the club head release through impact. When this is done correctly, you will store up plenty of power that can be used at impact – and you will keep the club on the proper path as well. As you might suspect, the delayed release is one of the hardest skills to learn in this game, which is why many players never manage to master the technique required. Later in this article, we are going to talk about how you can work on learning the delayed release as a way to eliminate your slice.

If you regularly hit a slice, it is very likely that you are making one of the three mistakes listed above. That is not a guarantee, however, as there are plenty of other ways to cause the ball to curve badly from left to right. Before you attempt to go any further in your quest to get rid of the slice, you need to make sure that you understand exactly what is causing this troublesome ball flight in the first place. Think about your swing, watch a recording of your swing on video if necessary, and work to determine why your shots are slicing so badly. Once you have that process out of the way, searching for a solution will be much easier.

A Great Drill

A Great Drill

Reading golf instruction content on the slice is a great way to get started on finding improvements, but at some point, you are going to need to get out and hit some shots for yourself. When you do so, it is helpful to have a drill or two on your side that can help you work on the right things. In this section, we are going to lay out an incredibly simple drill which will help you visualize exactly what the club should be doing as it moves through the hitting area.

To perform this drill on the driving range during your next practice session, please follow the steps below.

  • For this drill, you will need your driver, a head cover or towel, some practice balls, and a place to practice on the range. While it is possible to do this drill with clubs other than the driver, using your driver is a great way to get started. After all, most players who fight a slice struggle most of all with the driver, so why not start there? If you can get things straightened out with your driver, it is very likely things will start to work better with your irons as well.
  • The setup for this drill should only take you a moment or two. First, you should pick a target somewhere down the range to use for these drives. Pick something that is well within a comfortable distance range for your driver, and something that will be easy to spot time after time. With your target picked out, place a ball on a tee and clearly visualize your line. If you find it helpful, you may want to lay an extra club on the ground along the line where your toes will be placed, just to aid in proper alignment.
  • At this point, you could go ahead and hit some shots. However, there is one more step to complete before this drill is truly ready to go. Take the head cover or towel you have on hand and place it on the ground, behind the ball and just outside the target line (if it is a towel, roll it up into a cylindrical shape). Most head covers work well for this drill, but remember it is possible that your driver could contact the head cover if you make a poor swing. Should you happen to have a head cover with hard pieces that you wouldn't want to hit with the driver, opt for the towel instead.
  • The idea here is to place the head cover or towel in a position that will not get in your way if you make a good swing. The head cover should be far enough to the outside of the line that a good swing – which comes directly down the line and into the ball – will miss it completely. However, a poor swing which is coming from outside-in will make contact with the head cover or towel, instantly notifying you that you've made a mistake. It may take a few tries before you are able to get the head cover into the perfect position for this drill.
  • With all of the setup procedures out of the way, it is time to hit some drives. Do your best to swing the club through the hitting area and into the back of the ball without touching the head cover/towel. If you do make contact with the object you've used, replace it and try again. Over time, you will get better and better at swinging the club in such a way that will allow you to use a perfect swing path.

The great thing about this drill is that you can use it during any practice session, even for just a couple swings. If you feel like you are falling into bad habits, or if you have noticed a few sliced shots heading down the range, turn to this drill to get you back on track.